Sunday, May 7, 2023

The Truth About Hiring Decisions


Brace yourself for the truth about hiring decisions.  After years of experience in industry and headhunting, I have found that most hiring decisions are based on some combination of 8 key factors: Experience, Appearance, Likeability Communication Style, Work Ethic, Skills/Ability, Personality and Integrity. Each one is important.  But that doesn’t mean the impact each one should have on the hiring decision is equally important.   


Unfortunately, too many hiring decisions are not the best hiring decisions. The problem is this: Experience, Appearance, Likeability and Communication are the most visible factors (MVF’s), and therefore end up being the primary reasons someone gets hired.  Work Ethic, Skills/Ability, Personality and Integrity are much less visible (LVF’s) and more difficult to evaluate.  Too often we equate Likeability with Personality.  Likeability is part of Personality, but it doesn’t really tell you much about an individual’s Real Personality.  Experience can certainly tell us something about a person’s skills/ability and work ethic, but it’s not everything.  And if you’re just taking it from a resume or the candidate's personal testimony, it may mean even less.


Considering that many companies fail to look closely at the LVF’s and base their hiring decisions primarily on MVF’s, we end up with a lot of bad hiring decisions (BHD’s).  Now, BHD’s create opportunities for headhunters.  So perhaps I am working against my own economic interests to point this out.  But the world would be a better place for employers, candidates and headhunters if we made better hiring decisions.


I am not suggesting that employers ignore experience, appearance, likeability or communication.  We must start somewhere.   So, we look at resumes.  We probably check them out on LinkedIn.  We might even look at their social media posts; or google them and see what bubbles up.  At this point we are essentially looking at candidate advertising.  Let’s admit it, resumes are people presenting themselves in the best possible way.  They only highlight the good stuff; often they are misleading and, at worst they are fraudulent. LinkedIn can be much the same.  Social media posts and google can raise some interesting questions.  But there is something creepy about digging around in all of that.  Do I really need to see a candidate in a sombrero and speedo?


But if employers wanted to focus on a candidate’s job performance potential, they would put more emphasis on those LVF’s when making hiring decisions.  Work ethic, skills/ability, personality and integrity are more likely to determine job performance outcomes than experience, appearance, likeability or communication style.  Certainly these are important.  But they should be considered more as minimum requirements for candidates, not the primary determinants for who gets hired.  I say that fully recognizing that experience, appearance, likeability and communication styles are very important in certain roles.  But how many times have we seen people who look great, are likeable, excellent communicators and have impressive work histories turn out to be bad hires.  Some people who look good, sound good and check all of the boxes just “fail upward” for years before being found out. Washington DC is full of such characters.


To be clear, I am not suggesting that “perfect candidates” are out there waiting to be found.  Far from it.  Perfect candidates do not exist and those who come close to it are expensive, have a lot of options and more than likely what you are offering isn’t one of them.  What I am saying is be careful not to fall in love with a candidate’s resume or how they look or how they talk or just how much you like them.  Never assume that “great” candidates make great hires. The MVF’s should be filters in selecting candidates who go to the next round.  In the next round targeted interviews, meaningful reference checks and personality/cognitive assessments should be used to determine which candidate is most likely to be successful in this position in your company.  Think about your top performers.  They are usually a well-balanced combination of work ethic, skills/ability, personality and integrity that fits the position and your company.  

“People are not your most important asset.  The right people are.” – Jim Collins

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